Over the past 3 seasons, the Houston Astros have seen most of their recognizable players leave by way of trade and have seen an influx of youth. The Astros ended last season as the youngest team in all of baseball with an average age of 25.9, and have no one left from their 2007 roster. One of the two longest tenured Astros is lefty-specialist, Wesley Wright.
Wesley came to the Astros by way of the 2007 Rule 5 Draft. He was selected with the 8th pick from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the age of 23. He had finished his 2007 season with the Dodgers’ triple-A affiliate, Las Vegas 51s, working as both a starter and reliever. “When I was selected by the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft, my immediate reaction [was] one of excitement [in] knowing that I was going to be given a legitimate opportunity to make the Opening Day roster and start my major league career,” Wright reminisces. His rookie season he went 4-3 with a 5.01 ERA in 71 relief appearances. Wright recalls, “that season was full of a lot of ups and downs and I learned a lot about myself and the big leagues that season.”
The next few seasons, the Astros tried to figure out how Wesley was best suited to help the club by using him as a starter and reliever, as well as tinkering with his arm slot in an effort to better deceive hitters. Wright spent the first part of the 2010 season in triple-A, working to develop into a starter. He made 14 starts, going 4-1 with a 4.65 ERA before being called back up to Houston. In 4 starts and 10 long relief appearances with the Astros, he finished 2010 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA. In 2011, the Astros started him at triple-A again and asked him to work on a more side-armed delivery. He ended up making the transition back to the bullpen and put up impressive numbers, going 3-1 with a 2.07 ERA in 39 appearances. He was later called back up to Houston that season and made 21 appearances with a 1.50 ERA. It was evident to the Astros and Wesley Wright that he was most effective in the bullpen. “I definitely think that [being] in the bullpen is where I belong. I still think that I am evolving as a pitcher, so hopefully I [will] continue to get better and help us win more games.”
Following the 2011 season, Wesley decided to bring his arm slot back up a bit saying that, “changing arm slots was a tough adjustment and I felt like going back to what I was comfortable with and what originally got me to the big leagues in 2008.” During the 2012 season, Wesley Wright was able to solidify his position in the bullpen as the team’s lefty-specialist. He went 2-2, setting a career high in appearances with 77, and finished with a 3.27 ERA. He held lefties to a .197 batting average while striking out nearly 30% of lefties he faced.
The trade of Wandy Rodriguez last season, left Bud Norris and Wesley Wright as the two longest tenured Astros, which is pretty hard to believe. Wright says, “being one of the longest tenured Astros players is a little weird for me because I feel like I’m still trying to establish myself as a MLB regular.” As strange as it may be for Wesley, he will be asked to be a leader down in the bullpen going forward.
Of course, as one of the few veterans on this team and one of the few guys left that may have some trade value, you might wonder if the thoughts of a potential trade start to creep into Wesley’s mind. According to Wright, “I’ve never concerned myself with things out of my control…I’ve come to understand that being traded is part of the business and if [other teams] want you, that’s always a positive thing.” He is on board with the Astros rebuilding project, and says that “every player wants to win,” and he believes that “the organization has put together a team that gives us a chance to win right now as well as the future.”
Other than the organization making changes on the field, the Astros are also moving into a new division, a new league, and they’re doing it with new uniforms. Instead of Wesley worrying about having to learn a strategy for facing the unfamiliar hitters he will see in 2013, he sees it as more of an opportunity. “I think changing leagues is going to be really exciting for me and my teammates. The opportunity to play against different teams in stadiums a lot of us have never played in is going to be really cool.” When asked about the potential for the birth of an in-state rivalry with the Texas Rangers, Wright says, “I think the excitement that [is] going to come with having the Rangers in our division is going to be great for the fans and should provide a great atmosphere when the two teams meet, but we are going to need to win a few more games against them for it to be considered a real rivalry.” The move to the American League is not the only thing that has Wesley excited. “I think the new uniforms look great. I think the fans really wanted to see the blue and orange back on the field in Houston, and I’m excited to wear them this season!”
Wesley Wright has developed into one of the more dependable players on the Astros roster and will play an important role in the bullpen going forward. As long as the Astros can find someone that can get the opponents’ right-handed hitters out, the bullpen should be ready to go!